Thailand eyes cassava cartel

Thailand is poised to team up with Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam to stabilise cassava prices.

Adul Chotinisakorn, director-general of the Foreign Trade Department, said Thailand will use the World Tapioca Conference 2018, scheduled for June 27-28, as an opportunity to exchange information and ask for cooperation with three Asean peers to help stabilise tapioca prices.

The department aims to prevent price-cutting competition among the quartet and increase their bargaining power against importer countries.

The conference will showcase varieties of Thai tapioca products and their trade potential.

The theme this year is “Can You See The Magic Tapioca: The Magic Plant for a Sustainable Future”.

The trade show is expected to gather tapioca industry leaders from China, Asean, South Korea, Japan, India, Taiwan and the EU to meet for business-matching and talks.

About 1,000 international producers, exporters and importers of tapioca, as well as representatives from relevant agencies, are expected to participate in the event, where overall industry prospects, global production and trade will be discussed.

Information promulgated from the event is intended to help cassava growers, tapioca product makers, traders and exporters to better prepare their supply amounts.

Mr Adul said the event will also allow Thai farmers and producers to learn about and use new tapioca farming technologies and innovations.

The conference aims to help exporters expand to new markets such as Turkey, India and New Zealand, helping them reduce their heavy reliance on China.

Thailand produces 28-30 million tonnes of fresh cassava roots annually, fetching the country more than 100 billion baht a year and engaging more than 500,000 families nationwide.

Thailand is the world’s largest exporter of tapioca products, controlling more than 50% of the global market.

Combined with Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam, their total share of the global market is 80%.

Last year, Thailand exported 11 million tonnes of tapioca products, while exports worldwide totalled 21 million tonnes.

For the first four months of this year, Thailand exported 3.6 million tonnes, down 8% year-on-year.

But the total value was worth 1.178 billion baht, an increase of 26%.

In 2018, Thailand has set an export target of 10.6 million tonnes, with lower production anticipated.

Export value is estimated to be on par with last year.

“Tapioca prices are likely to increase this year because of rising demand,” said Mr Adul.

“Currently the price of tapioca chips averages US$252 (8,268 baht) per tonne, up from $170, while modified starch averages $540 per tonne, up from $360.”

Domestic fresh cassava root prices average 2.95-3.20 baht per kilogramme, up 85% from the same period of last year, because of lower production.